How Christmas Continued, 25

ON THE THIRD DAY (Mt. 28; Mk. 16; Lk. 24; Jn. 20-21; Ac. 1-4)

I, John, the one whom Jesus loved, watched in horror what the Roman soldiers were doing to our Teacher. A week ago, He rode into Jerusalem being welcomed by a cheering crowd, ready to crown Jesus king. Less than a week later, His enemies were crucifying Him as the “King of the Jews.” Jesus’ mother, my mother and a few of us were watching in horror and listening to their verbal abuse, demanding that He come down from the cross, that is, if He really was the Son of God. He did not come down from the cross. Instead He forgave His enemies, instructed me to take care of His mother, announced that, “it was finished” and then died. At that very moment, the earth shook, the sky darkened, and we ran for our safety. Even the enemies knew that it was no ordinary “Man” they had tortured, humiliated and crucified but had not killed. He had died by His own choice. From some of our brave women, we learned that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had spared any more humiliation of our Leader by placing His body in a grave.

It was the most difficult Sabbath we ever had lived through. We were hiding in fear of being apprehended and crucified like our Master. Some of our women dared to take some embalming spices to the grave and prepare our Teacher for a proper burial. They had barely gone when some hurried back telling us that the grave was empty. Some claimed they had seen one or two angels telling them that Jesus was alive. Peter and the Other Disciple, that wanted to remain nameless, ran to the gravesite and returned. Peter was puzzled, but the Other Disciple believed that what he had seen in the sepulcher was proof that Jesus was alive. Towards evening, two of our friends from Emmaus insisted that they had supper with Jesus. Earlier, Mary Magdalene also was convinced that it was Jesus whom she had met in the garden that surrounded the tomb. To us, it was all but an imagination of the minds of people that could not face the fact that Jesus was dead. Even the words that the men from Emmaus recalled that Jesus had frequently spoken of His own resurrection made no sense. The dead were simply dead. For us, the end had come. We were even told by some of the women that the person that resembled Jesus wanted us to return to Galilee. That of course made sense and we decided on going back to fishing.

The Third Day was drawing to a close. Out of fear for our lives, we had bolted our doors and held vigil for our departed Leader. Out of nowhere Jesus appeared, stood among us and said, “Fear no longer!” Then He began to show us His hands torn by the spikes and His pierced side. Again, He told us not to fear by breathing on us His breath and hearing Him say to us that He was passing on the Holy Spirit to us so that we too could forgive the sins of those that sin against us, just as He had forgiven those that had sinned against Him. We exploded into joy and began to share our experience with the Risen Lord with others. Thomas was not with us that evening and refused to believe our story. A week later, Jesus appeared the second time and told Thomas to touch His wounded hands and side and told him to stop doubting and start believing. Thomas broke down and cried out, “My Lord and My God!” Jesus had a lesson for all of us. Hereinafter, we were to live by faith and not by sight. For the next forty days, we walked by faith and had many miraculous encounters with our Risen Lord, the kind an unbeliever would not comprehend.

Faith did not come easily. We needed much more convincing that our Lord Jesus was really alive. I am sorry to say it, but we depended far too much on visible evidence than on mere faith. We had heard our Teacher tell us that He would always be with us; only, we had no idea how He could always be present with us. Our Lord knew that we needed a third and final lesson on Him being always present in our lives. It happened when we were back fishing in our old fishing spots and caught nothing. Someone on shore asked us whether we had any fish to show for our effort and He told us that the fish were on the other side of the boat. Instantly, I recognized the voice of our Lord and told Peter, “It is the Lord!” Peter was not decent, he covered himself quickly and dove into the lake. The rest of us struggled to bring the boat in which was overloaded with fish. On shore, we shared quietly in a meal and we all knew we were in Jesus’ presence. After the meal, Jesus asked Peter three times to reaffirm his loyalty and not to remind him of his threefold denial during our Master’s trial. Our Lord trusted us in spite of what we had done. He trusted Peter with being our shepherd. As for me, Jesus had another mission. I was to follow my Lord in ways Peter would not. Neither of us understood at the time what destiny was intended for us. For a short time, we would bask in His glory and then carry His cross in addition to ours.

Our Lord took His leave from us on the Mount of Olives. At our last meal with Him, He instructed us to remain in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to replace Him and remain with us forever. His Spirit would empower us and clarify for us the nature and purpose of His kingdom. The Spirit impacted us even more than Jesus did in person. The Holy Spirit made the Name of Jesus alive and forceful. We, that once hid behind closed doors, were now proclaiming that Jesus was alive in public and before our hostile authorities. We were unafraid to face incarceration or death. We lost Stephen and my brother James and we gained an enemy, like Saul of Tarsus. We had yet to learn, that the Name of Jesus could not be contained in Jerusalem or Israel. He was even too big for the world to grasp or to stop. He, “Alone,” became our Way, our Truth and our Life that took us back to God, our Heavenly Father. No other “Name” has that power to cleanse us, forgive us and make us fit for the eternal kingdom of God prepared for us before the very foundation of this world was laid. I, John, was privileged to have a vision to see that “No One” next to God was higher than Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega. It all began on the Third Day!